News November 9, 2017

Kučka, Radical Son, Ella Thompson & more score PPCA recording grants

Kučka, Radical Son, Ella Thompson & more score PPCA recording grants

The latest round of the innovative PPCA/Australia Council recording grants has been announced this morning, with an exciting group of Aussie musicians awarded $15,000 each towards their next project.

“All the funded projects this year are led by either female artists or First Nations artists, sending a great message about the energy and diversity of contemporary Australian music,” noted Australia Council chair Tony Grybowski.

The recipients are:

  • Sydney singer-songwriter Katie Wighton, to record and promote the second album by All Our Exes Live in Texas.
  • Indigenous Australian and Tongan singer David Leha aka Radical Son to record the YANAYA project – “a unique music collaboration between First Nation artists in language and song”.
  • Perth avant-electronic artist Laura Jane Lowther pka KUČKA to record, release & promote her debut album.
  • Chris Read to record and release a new album with the Wingellina-based Irrunytju Band (“Wingellina is a Ngaanyatjarra community tucked inside the Western Australia border 10 kms from the tri state border of WA, NT and SA.”)
  • Melbourne songwriter/musician Ella Thompson to record and release her second solo album Like Running Water.

The grants partnership was launched in 2013 and allows PPCA to use the peer-assessment expertise of the Australia Council to distribute funds to deserving projects.

Last round’s winners included Gordi, who’s just released her new single ’On My Side’ from the album Reservoir, recorded with the aid of the funds awarded by the PPCA and Australia Council. 

Previous rounds have also produced hugely successful records – Courtney Barnett was a beneficiary of the very first round of grants, which allowed her to make Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

TMN caught up with Thompson, who’s gearing up for some shows in Melbourne with her other project GL, and Lowther, holed up in her favourite secret studio in LA’s Echo Park, to find out what these initiative means for them in real terms.


Congrats on making the cut! What does this money mean to you? 

Ella: It’s huge. Obviously, I would do [the record] anyway, but I just would have to scrounge up the money from somewhere. But yeah. It just means that I can spend a bit more time developing songs. If you don’t have the cash to see something through, you never know what might be discovered in the mixing process. Because often, lots of songs come to life in that period. So it’s good to have just that, a bit more studio time… it means I can record a few more songs and pick the best ones and that sort of thing. 

Laura: It means I can work in the spaces I want to work in. Also being over here [in LA], I can collaborate with people that I want to work with. Every time I come and work here I’m so productive and inspired, and funding, self funding an album is hard. So I’m like, “Oh when is this gonna run out?” So getting the grant means that I can actually do that which is amazing.


What are your main recording costs and setup at the moment?

Laura: Basically just the studio time. I’ve worked with a few friends in the studio, coming in, but most of my album tracks have just been me, alone, hiding away and playing with synths. So the studio’s the main cost.

Ella: I have a little studio at home, just pretty simple, like some speakers and a few synths and a microphone. But I have a separate room, which is good, to do that in. And then I go and work with two engineers… And then I bring them my demos and we go through them.

But with this record, I’m using a string quartet! I’ve been writing with a friend of mine, Claire Renner, who’s an amazing piano player and we studied together at VCA. And so we’re writing some piano and strings music, and so I’ve got another friend that we studied with [who] is arranging string and woodwind parts. So that’s something I’ve never done before. It is nice to be able to bring in people when you need them.


When you first started getting in to studios and getting out of your bedroom setup, were you surprised at how much it actually cost? 

Laura: Yes. Just trying to find a place for a month, which is … Obviously when touring and stuff, I can’t be in Perth, it’s so far away to go back and forth to. I was like, “Oh I need to find a place to work cause I can’t just sit in a café and work on my headphones.” It’s just not a vibe.

And then, me and my manager, she searched all of these studios and some of them are like $11,000 US dollars per month! We were like, “What?” It’s so much money.


Have you ever received a grant like this before?

Ella: Yeah, for my last record I received one from Creative Victoria, and I received the ArtStart grant when I finished studying, which was really awesome.

Laura: I’ve got a grant for my previous EP. I got it like three years ago. That was my EP for the mixing and mastering, marketing and stuff. I didn’t have a label or anything. So that was super useful.


Have you applied for a lot?

Ella: Lots. I think they’re my only three successful ones, but I’ve definitely applied for lots. I don’t know, 10 or something.

Laura: This year, yes. It’s the point where I want to finish an album, and yeah, being independent, the costs add up so much.


What was the application process for this one like?

Ella: I just talked about the project. And I think I’ve applied for lots of grants in the past where I haven’t understood the full viability part of it, and now I kind of get it a bit. You’ve got to make it viable and make sure that the album’s not gonna sit on a hard drive, and you are gonna do everything in your power to make it heard.


What do you wish you’d known when you first started trying to record stuff?

Ella: Maybe my last record that I did and this one coming, I always feel like I’m like, “Oh, I’m not a producer. I can’t do that. It’s not my skill set”, that sort of thing. But really just to have that confidence to be like, “No, of course I am. This is what producers do!” So yeah, I’m learning that confidence, I guess.

I think learning to perform and then record are two totally different things. So getting used to the sound of your voice and how it sounds recorded and different techniques to do that.


There must be a certain amount of validation that comes with getting something like this, as well. 

Laura: It’s good to have support. Someone thinks that I might be able to make something cool. 

Ella: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s like if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it kind of thing… And especially when you’re in that demo process, and no one’s heard it apart from a few friends. So to send a demo off and the government thinks it’s good enough, that’s pretty cool.


Working overseas as much as you do, do you find that there’s a big difference in how much support there is, how much funding there is?

Laura: I think I’ve been really lucky to get funding. A lot of people have struggled. I think for individual artists, Australia has really good amount of funding, I think compared to other countries. When you talk to people in LA, like “Oh I got a grant.” They’re like, “What? People give you money to make music? What the hell?” So yeah, I feel really lucky… It’s much more of a struggle here, I think, if you’re not backed by a label or a big publisher.

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